Monday, December 16, 2013


Twenty some odd years ago I took a stand up comedy class. Over the course of six weeks, we were tasked with writing five minutes worth of original material that we would then perform onstage in front of a large audience at a local comedy club. Some of us (like myself) worked hard at this task, while others didn't pay any attention to our teacher's instructions and bombed miserably once they were onstage and in front of a live audience. One of the things that our teacher, Sam Cox (who at the time was a regular writer for Jay Leno) told us about writing and performing comedy was this bon mot which I've never forgotten: "Don't do blue. It's cheap, easy and a lazy way to do comedy."

I bring this up because I was reminded of Sam's sage advice while reading the trade paperback of SAGA VOLUME ONE yesterday. This highly acclaimed new Image Comics series is by creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. The first volume introduces the two main characters (a hot alien babe with green wings and an alien dude with pointed ears and ram horns). The woman gives birth to their mixed-race daughter at the beginning of the story and the new young family sets out to escape from the planet they're on. Turns out their respective alien races are at war with each other and the fact that two members of these races have hooked up and procreated has caused all sorts of trouble.

The story moves along at a fast clip with the baby Hazel narrating these past events (so we know she survives this ordeal). The leads are sympathetic and likable, the supporting players (good guys and bad) are striking and colorful, the humor works and the action and violence is graphic and slightly over the top. Fiona Staples artwork is very good. All in all, I liked SAGA even if this first volume ends on a cliffhanger.

What I didn't like about SAGA was the language that writer Vaughan has his characters using throughout the book. I'm no prude and this book is clearly labeled as not for young audiences but I have to wonder if members of alien races would really use such words as "shit", "crap", "cunt", "assholes", "bullshit", etc.

When characters go "blue"in SAGA (which happens quite often) it pulls me out of the story because it sounds like characters on earth in the year 2013 speaking, not aliens on distant planets. Add to this the presence of the ghost of a young girl who looks, dresses and talks like a contemporary teenager and the result is a severe disruption of my willing suspension of disbelief. Dialogue like this is jarring and disconcerting in a story of this type. It would be entirely acceptable in a gritty urban crime novel set in the here and now but coming from the mouths of aliens?

It's just "blue" and it's just lazy.

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